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Internet security video ICs to grow

Posted: 19 Apr 2006     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Mike Clendenin  analogue  digital  security camera  DSP 

Fed by a global focus on terrorism and the shift from analogue to digital systems, the IP-based security camera industry is beginning to boom, and that is expected to boost the demand for DSPs and MPEG encoders in the years ahead.

Analyst Mark Kirstein at iSuppli Corp. sees the market for IP video surveillance cameras nearly doubling this year and posting an annual growth rate of about 88 per cent from 2004 to 2010, reaching Rs.17,409.60 crore ($3.9 billion) by then. The video server market will hit Rs.5,356.80 crore ($1.2 billion) in that time, he predicts.

Both will drive security-related IC sales to about Rs.3,571.20 crore ($800 million), up from less than Rs.133.92 crore ($30 million) two years ago. Video surveillance will rapidly expand beyond traditional areas like borders, banks and retail outlets and into schools, hospitals and even homes, as digitization drives down the cost of cameras. "There is a huge market transition, and we are just in the beginning," said Anders Laurin, regional director of Asia-Pacific for Axis Communications AB, a global provider in the network video market. In the mid-1990s, Axis was one of the first companies to launch a network camera.

The shift from analogue closed-caption TV systems to digital cameras and IP-based video networks is set to benefit a range of DSP suppliers. For instance, Cradle Technologies Inc. is targeting the high end with its multicore DSP-based CT3600 line, which handles multiple streams in video servers, or its CT3400 family, which embeds greater intelligence in "smart cameras." Texas Instruments Inc. is also targeting its programmable DM64xx digital media processors at this high-performance niche, but sees the market widening soon. "As more IP cameras enter the market," said Yvonne Cager of TI's video security solutions group, "this level of performance will float to the midrange as customers demand more performance and more functionality."

Imaging demand
On the imaging front, vendors of higher-quality CMOS image sensors will see increasing demand from the designers of surveillance-camera systems as engineers seek lower-cost alternatives to charge-coupled-device sensors. Companies like Pixim Inc. are building momentum for highly integrated sensor and image-processor logic that boosts the performance of CMOS sensors in low-light conditions and aids in camera-based applications such as motion detection, image stabilisation and scene analysis, said John Monti, VP of sales and marketing at Pixim.

Smaller design-services companies, like Taiwan's Faraday Technology Corp., are also getting into the game, leveraging configurable platforms to build up a position in the middle and lower ends of the market. Faraday recently released a software update to its 8120 multimedia platform, an ARMv4-based 32bit RISC (220MHz) that supports MPEG-4 and Motion JPEG compression.

Working with a local lab, Faraday is fine-tuning the programmable SoC with network comms protocols and streaming technology. Two-way audio communication software that supports real-time streaming protocols and 3G Partnership Project protocols will make it suitable to confer between network surveillance hosts and remote workstations.

The company is working with system vendors in Taiwan that hope to get into the IP camera market in traditional applications, and to expand into home apps, which now represent only about 10 per cent of the market. "The market has been small because before, the QoS of the video wasn't good and the home net bandwidth wasn't enough. But these two problems have been solved, so we believe the blocking factor is cost," said C.J. Liang, associate VP of Faraday's multimedia business unit.

By 2008, more than half of the installed video surveillance will be done by IP cameras, J.P. Freeman Co. reports. The market research house predicts that sales of network cameras will outpace those of analogue cameras by next year, and more than double those sales by 2008. Some vendors, such as TI, have a more conservative view, but still think IP-based digital cameras will outpace analogue closed-circuit TV sales by 2010. "Analog and digital cameras will continue to coexist for the next 10 years," said Pixim's Monti. "Over time, the percentage of new installations using IP cameras will continue to increase steadily until the analogue market falls close to zero."

iSuppli's Kirstein agrees. "The surveillance industry is conservative and low-cost, so security system managers won't rush out for a forklift upgrade," he said.

Networked cameras
J.P. Freeman estimates that about a quarter of U.S. security users employ networked cameras, while 45 per cent are interested in buying. A growing share of those cameras will be embedded with high-performance silicon to help decide when to increase or decrease resolutions and frame rates based on changing scenarios, or embed tags in video to make it easier to search and analyse. "Each IP camera is essentially a computer on the network," said Eric Chan, director of Intel Corp.'s infrastructure processor division.

So far, Intel is mainly a player in back-end apps: content management and analysis systems, for example, that use digital video recorders and, increasingly, dual-core-based PCs that enable the advanced functionality coming to surveillance markets such as object tracking and analysis. Intel also plays a role in video servers in both analogue and digital systems, where it has promoted its digital security surveillance platform. But Intel is also looking to move closer to the edge, especially in high-performance IP cameras, where it sees a role for its IXP2350 network processor.

"We see everything being integrated into flashy new IP cameras," Chan said. "If you need a high level of intelligence, then it could be both a high-performance network processor and DSP. If it is just a basic IP camera, then it could be just a network processor or DSP."

Observers believe that the demand for processing power in IP cameras will eventually grow as system designers try to automate tasks such as allowing staff entry to restricted areas.

- Mike Clendenin
EE Times

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